Someone recently asked me if all carbohydrates are the same. If you judge a food just by the nutrition label on the back of a package, you'd be inclined to think yes, they're all the same. After all, one gram of carbohydrate - regardless of where it comes from - is equal to four calories. But not all calories, or carbohydrates, are created equal. Think of a gram of carbohydrate as its own little engine. Some engines are fired up, raring to go. And other engines are at the end of their rope, barely able to create so much as a spark. Good carbs are like the fired up engine. Bad carbs are like the engine on its last leg.

Eating good carbs versus bad carbs has a corollary effect on our body. Eat the good stuff and you'll feel good. Eat the bad stuff and you won't. It's that simple.

Good Carbs
Broccoli, carrots, raspberries, nectarines, brown rice, beans, quinoa, whole grain bread, kale, lettuce, popcorn, and fresh-squeezed juice. They're all carbohydrates. And for the most part, they're all good food you.

Bad Carbs
Cookies, soda, store bought juice, white bread, quick-cooked rice, white pasta, canned baked beans, chips, sugary cereals, candy and most diet food. They're all carbohydrates, too. But they're not nearly as good for you.

Good carbohydrates help your body by providing vitamins and minerals that allow your body to operate properly, boosting metabolism and improving your immune system.  They're also partially responsible for maintaining even energy well into a long day, as well as other tell-tale signs that you're doing something right in your diet like, glowing skin, shiny hair and strong nails. Good carbohydrates always give to your body. So they're pretty important.

Bad carbohydrates tend to take more than give. Refined and overly-processed carbohydrates possess very little nutrition, if any at all. This is why bad carbs are often referred to as "dead foods." More often than not, bad carbs tax our body's reserves, particularly in our gut - where over 70% of our immune system exists!

How Much Carbohyrate Should You Eat?
No one should live on carrots, fresh-squeezed juice or brown rice alone - regardless of how healthy they are. We need to balance those healthy carbs with healthy fats and protein (more on that later). I believe that no two people should eat the same type of food, or the same proportion of protein, carbs or fat. Eating right for your body type is one way to get your body on track and eating healthy. Once you learn to listen to your body (is food triggering aches, pains, indigestion, sluggishness, unnecessary fat storage, etc.), it's easy to know how much rice you should have with your chicken or if the fruit in the morning is a good thing for you. Until you've got a good healthy eating pattern down, combine healthy carbs, fats and protein. Don't eat too much and eat when you start feeling hungry again.

Want more tips like this? Traci D Mitchell is a healthy living and fitness expert. Follow Traci on Facebook. She’d love to see you there! Interested in working with Traci? She works privately with clients specializes in nutrition coaching and weight loss as well as functional fitness and personal training. All sessions are done via Skype or telephone if outside of Chicago. For more information, contact Traci here.

Looking for a simple way to get into great shape and eat right? Try Traci’s 40-Day Shape Up!